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The Sentence in Ephesians

by Tim O'Hearn

Paul could be very wordy at times. Perhaps the best known is one sentence which can be found in Ephesians 1:3-14. This whole passage is one long sentence, full of clauses and sub-clauses (and since he talks about Christians, even santa-clauses). Most modern “translations” break this up into several sentences, thus becoming paraphrases rather than translations. (I have a basic objection to those who unnecessarily change the inspired word just for some sense of their own propriety.) Perhaps they are, in some ways, more readable, but at the cost of a sense of Paul’s style and logic.

Below is the entire sentence (from the King James Version). Every time I change a level of indenting at the beginning of a phrase or phrases, that level refers back to the underlined words in the previous level. To make it easier to see the changes I have changed the symbol at the beginning of each line for each new level. I once thought of diagramming the sentence as I was taught in the second or third grade, but that became too cumbersome.

Maybe this chart will make the sentence easier to understand; but probably not so much as those modern versions. To me it is of value because it shows both the level of complexity of Paul’s thinking, and that Paul, like other great writers, was not constrained by the common concept of what constituted proper grammar. This sentence alone proves what Peter said about Paul: “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Pet 3:15)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

  • who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
  • According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,
    • that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
    • Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself,
      • according to the good pleasure of his will,
      • To the praise of the glory of his grace,
        • wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved,
          • In whom we have redemption through his blood,
            • the forgiveness of sins,
            • according to the riches of his grace;
              • Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
                • Having made known unto us the mystery of his will,
                  • according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
                  • That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things
                    • in Christ,
                    • both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;
                    • even in him:
                      • In whom also we have obtained an inheritance,
                        • being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
                          • That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ,
                            • In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation:
                            • in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
                              • Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

      ©2003, 2006 by Tim O’Hearn

      Click here for a full page image of the chart above.